There is a reason games used to veer towards being Geographically linear. It allows designers to more easily create set pieces and instill a more planned set of emotions on the player as well as add more details to the game world. The concept of open world came about with the first GTA and has sunk it’s teeth quite firmly into the shin of gaming. Nowadays series much more commonly flaunt a open world as a feature. I, cynically, tend to see this as not automatically a good thing for many reasons. Open worlds offer the player a degree of freedom not seen in linear experiences. That said they do tend to have a lot of problems:
Boring traversal mechanics
whether it’s horrible car handling, drab landscapes or one button parl\kour it is important to engage your player on their way to point B from point A. Holding one button for 2-5 minutes is super boring and unless your world is the caviar of world design then you need to mix up your mechanics. Good ways to engage the player can be requiring them to jump, grab ledges (tomb raider) or avoid enemies. I say avoid enemies because even the best combat, if always required to move past a group of enemies, can be incredibly tedious. Also, bridge the gap between a big world and a”Oh my god 10km to the objective” world. you can also try to challenge the player on their way to point B requiring them to orientate themselves using the environment and more vague maps.
A useless leveling system
A lot of games feel the need to force the player to feel “invested” in the game through a pointless leveling system. The new mirrors edge has one, watchdogs has one, far cry has one, Just Cause 3 has one. Its a cheap tactic to pad out game length and the same job can be done through the unlock of equipment instead of limiting the basic mechanics available to the player. This is the seen of a lot of the problems Ubisoft games keep having.
A side effect of a leveling system is the chance that you may make your player overpowered. This feeling of being overpowered is occasionally fun and engaging (Just cause 3, Prototype) but most of the time it makes the game incredibly dull (any Assasin’s creed bar unity, shadow of mordor). The reason this lack of difficulty makes the game boring is the exact same reason that bad traversal mechanics get boring. The lack of engagement and thought causes the drop off of players later in a game.
When i say “content is a problem in open world games” i am not speaking of a lack there of, but a focus on quantity over quality. i would much rather play a singular well made level twice then a boring, Cooky cutter level 4 times with different colors. Their also needs to be a focus on content that doesn’t solely rely on mechanics but engages the player in other ways through story and enemy variety.
Open world games still have a long way to go and seriously need to listen to their communities. their needs to be a much bigger focus on quality and overall content that does more than just passes time. In the meantime however have a wonderful day.